Adverse Childhood Experiences – Trauma Recovery Resources

Keynote of ACES to Assets Conference 2019 – Dr. Gabor Mate

What is Childhood Trauma?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, childhood trauma is defined as:   “The experience of an event by a child that is emotionally painful or distressful, which often results in lasting mental and physical effects.”

What is an ACE?

An ACE is an “Adverse Childhood Experience” also known as trauma. This term originated from the study created at Kaiser by Dr. Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda of the CDC.

ACEs and Toxic Stress

According to the CDC: ACEs and associated conditions, such as living in under-resourced or racially segregated neighborhoods, frequently moving, and experiencing food insecurity, can cause toxic stress (extended or prolonged stress). Toxic stress from ACEs can change brain development and affect such things as attention, decision-making, learning, and response to stress.


Kindred articles and videos on on ACES and Trauma Recovery


HEALING COMMUNITIES: Trauma-Informed Approaches to Community Development. Download and read the PDF.


ACES Connection Resource Center. ACEs Connection, an ever-growing social network, connects those who are implementing trauma-informed and resilience-building practices based on ACEs science. The network’s 35,000+ members share their best practices, while inspiring each other to grow the ACEs movement.

THE ATTACHMENT TRAUMA CENTER INSTITUTE The Attachment Trauma Center Institute, LLC (ATCI) provides quality resources, training, and consultation in the field of trauma and attachment. Based in Omaha, Nebraska, Debra Wesselmann, MS, LIMHP, Cathy Schweitzer, MS, LIMHP and Stefanie Armstrong, MS, LIMHP are co-founders of The Attachment and Trauma Center of Nebraska and the ATCI. They are national and international presenters and are certified EMDR consultants. They have developed an EMDR and family therapy integrative model for effective treatment of attachment trauma in children and have co-authored a clinician treatment manual and accompanying parent guide for raising traumatized children.

COMPASSION PRISON PROJECT. Bringing Compassion, Childhood Trauma Awareness and Creative Inspiration to the men and women living behind bars.

EMBEDDING TRAUMA-INFORMED PRACTICES WITHIN EXISTING SCHOOL-WIDE PRACTICESIn this blog post on ACEs Connection, Dr. Jim Walters and educator in the St. Louis area offers his 3 step process on incorporating trauma informed care into school-wide practices which are already in place.

Mindful Schools. How Teachers Can Use Trauma-Informed Mindfulness Practices to Support their Students.

Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities is pleased to offer a series of free webinars featuring our national advisors.  In each of these short 45-minute sessions, one of our advisors will share some of their expertise and engage in dialogue with you on key strategies for creating just, healthy and resilient communities.  

National Child Traumatic Stress Network. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) was created by Congress in 2000 as part of the Children’s Health Act to raise the standard of care and increase access to services for children and families who experience or witness traumatic events. This unique network of frontline providers, family members, researchers, and national partners is committed to changing the course of children’s lives by improving their care and moving scientific gains quickly into practice across the U.S. 

Out of the Fog. Dealing with a loved-one or family member who suffers from a personality disorder can sometimes feel like navigating through a fog. FOG stands for Fear, Obligation, Guilt – feelings which often result from being in a relationship with a person who suffers from a Personality Disorder. The FOG acronym was coined by Susan Forward & Donna Frazier in their book Emotional Blackmail. It is our hope that this site may help some navigate out of the FOG in their own lives.

Recognize Trauma. Mental Health Connection of Tarrant County is a group of public and private agencies, individual mental health care providers & installment loan lenders, people who use mental health services, caregivers, elected officials and other community leaders. The group works together to revolutionize the mental health care system by improving the ability to access mental health care and enhancing the quality of mental health care in Tarrant County.

SESAME STREET IN COMMUNITIESThe newest topic for Sesame Street in Communities to help children with is Parental Addiction. Elmo talks with his dad about Karli’s mom and why she had to go away. This website has links to many other topics and resources to use with kids and their families.

TRAUMA SENSITIVE SCHOOL DESCRIPTIVE STUDY The Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI) Trauma-Sensitive Schools Descriptive Study has just been released. “This two-year study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) provides new evidence that an understanding of trauma sensitivity can lead to changes in practice and new ways of interacting with both students and with fellow staff members. In turn these new ways of thinking and changes in practice can serve as a foundation for school-wide culture change that enables students and their educators to feel safe and supported to learn and be successful.”(from the TLPI website)

THE $1 TRILLION LINK BETWEEN MENTAL HEALTH AND ECONOMIC PRODUCTIVITY (FORBES, JUNE 29, 2016)In April, the World Health Organization released a groundbreaking study that established a definitive link between mental health and economic productivity. The findings were both depressing and hopeful. On the downside, depression and anxiety disorders cost the world nearly U.S. $1 trillion annually . On the upside, every dollar invested in treating those disorders leads to a return of $4 in terms of the ability to work and thus contribute to the economy.


Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential–and Endangered
Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz (William Morrow Paperbacks, 2010)

Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You Can Heal
Donna Jackson Nakazawa (Atria Books, 2015)

For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence
Alice Miller (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002)

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction
Gabor Maté (North Atlantic Books, 2011)

Prisoners of Childhood: The Drama of the Gifted Child and the Search for the True Self
Alice Miller (Basic Books, 1996)

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma 
Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. (Penguin Books, 2015)

The Circles Story : How to help your community resolve poverty and thrive
Scott C. Miller (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014)

The Last Best Cure: My Quest to Awaken the Healing Parts of My Brain and Get Back My Body, My Joy, and My Life
Donna Jackson Nakazawa (Avery, 2013)

Scared Sick: The Role of Childhood Trauma in Adult Disease 
Robin Karr-Morse with Meredith S. Wiley (Basic Books, 2012)

When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection
Gabor Maté (Wiley, 2008)

Childhood Trauma Statistics

· 60% of adults report experiencing abuse or other difficult family circumstances during childhood. 

· 26% of children in the United States will witness or experience a traumatic event before they turn four. 

· Four of every 10 children in American say they experienced a physical assault during the past year, with one in 10 receiving an assault-related injury. 

· 2% of all children experienced sexual assault or sexual abuse during the past year, with the rate at nearly 11% for girls aged 14 to 17. 

· Nearly 14%of children repeatedly experienced maltreatment by a caregiver, including nearly 4% who experienced physical abuse. 

· 1 in 4 children was the victim of robbery, vandalism or theft during the previous year. 

· More than 13% of children reported being physically bullied, while more than 1 in 3 said they had been emotionally bullied. 

· 1 in 5 children witnessed violence in their family or the neighborhood during the previous year.

· In one year, 39% of children between the ages of 12 and 17 reported witnessing violence, 17%reported being a victim of physical assault and 8%reported being the victim of sexual assault. 

· More than 60% of youth age 17 and younger have been exposed to crime, violence and abuse either directly or indirectly. 

· More than 10% of youth age 17 and younger reported five or more exposures to violence. 

· About 10% of children suffered from child maltreatment, were injured in an assault, or witnessed a family member assault another family member. 

· About 25% of youth age 17 and younger were victims of robbery or witnessed a violent act.

· Nearly half of children and adolescents were assaulted at least once in the past year. 

· Among 536 elementary and middle school children surveyed in an inner city community, 30%had witnessed a stabbing and 26% had witnessed a shooting.

· Young children exposed to five or more significant adverse experiences in the first three years of childhood face a 76% likelihood of having one or more delays in their language, emotional or brain development.    

As the number of traumatic events experienced during childhood increases, the risk for the following health problems in adulthood increases: depression; alcoholism; drug abuse; suicide attempts; heart and liver diseases; pregnancy problems; high stress; uncontrollable anger; and family, financial, and job problems.     

People who have experienced trauma are:

· 15 times more likely to attempt suicide

· 4 times more likely to become an alcoholic

· 4 times more likely to develop a sexually transmitted disease

· 4 times more likely to inject drugs

· 3 times more likely to use antidepressant medication

· 3 times more likely to be absent from work

· 3 times more likely to experience depression

· 3 times more likely to have serious job problems

· 2.5 times more likely to smoke

· 2 times more likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

· 2 times more likely to have a serious financial problem


Symptoms of Trauma

Hyper-arousal: increased heart rate, rapid or difficulty breathing, cold sweats, tingling, muscular tension.

Constriction: Constriction in body and narrowing of perceptions. 

Disassociation or Denial

Feelings of helplessness, immobility and freezing

Hyper vigilance

Intrusive imagery or flashbacks

Extreme sensitivity to light and sound


Exaggerated emotional and startle responses

Nightmares and night terrors

Abrupt mood swings (rage reactions or temper tantrums, frequent anger or crying)

Shame and lack of self-worth

Reduced ability to deal with stress

Difficulty sleeping

Panic attacks, anxiety and phobias

Mental blankness or spaced out feelings

Avoidance behavior (avoiding places, moments, activities, memories or people)

Attraction to dangerous situations

Addictive behaviors (overeating, drinking, smoking, drugs 

Exaggerated or diminished sexual activity

Amnesia or forgetfulness

Inability to love, nurture or bond with other individuals

Fear of dying or having a shortened life

Self mutilation (severe abuse, self-inflicted cutting, etc.)

Loss of sustaining beliefs (spiritual, religious, interpersonal)

Excessive shyness

Diminished emotional responses

Inability to make commitments

Chronic Fatigue or very low physical energy

Immune system problems

Psychosomatic illnesses particularly headaches, migraines, neck and back problems

Chronic pain


Skin disorders

Digestive problems

Depression and feelings of impending doom

Feelings of detachment, alienation and isolation (living dead syndrome)

Reduced ability to formulate plans

Re-enactment of the trauma

From Peter Levine’s “Healing Trauma.”